Settling into a new home, getting used to being around a new family and going to a new school can be unsettling enough as individual changes. When these things happen all together, there’s a real potential for a child of any age to be overwhelmed.
Whether your foster child has just arrived in your home and will be attending a new school as part of the move or they’re preparing to move to a new school next term, we’re sharing some hints, tips and points to consider to help you make the process as stress-free as possible for everyone involved.
1. Establish a Routine
It can be difficult to know how any child will react to heading back to school or indeed changing schools, which is what makes preparation and planning so important. The first step in preparing your foster child for school is to get them used to a routine. This means adjusting to bedtimes and alarms in the morning, and talking about the routine of the family as a whole so they know what to expect when it comes to bathroom use, breakfasts and getting to school.
If your foster child is taking a packed lunch, check out our advice on encouraging healthy eating and spend time choosing and prepping lunches together. Don’t forget to chat about lunch and break arrangements at their new school.
Your foster child’s school will take your contact details as a matter of course, but it may take a little longer for your foster child to learn where you live or how to get there. Before they set off on their first day, ensure they know your contact details and who they can expect to collect them at the school gates. Be sure they also know the route home and to school and practice it together.
If they need to get a school bus make sure they know where to get on and off and arrange to meet them if appropriate. You may also need to discuss whether they should ever expect their birth parents or family to pick them up at any point in the future.
2. Check in with the Wider Care Team
As part of the foster placement process, you should be made aware of any educational issues your foster child may have. It’s possible that they may have previously experienced problems with truancy or other behavioural issues. If there have been difficult periods at home, children may be behind with their learning in comparison to their peers. Being aware of these issues and discussing them with the wider care team can help you provide positive reassurance. It may be appropriate to make teachers aware of certain background issues too, though you’ll want to check with social workers just how much should be shared.
3. Be Prepared for Anything
You can start preparing children for school by discussing any fears or worries they may have. From making friends to finding particular subjects difficult, talking things through could help them to feel more at ease. You’ll need to talk about how to answer questions about why children are moving schools or staying with you, so practice this in role play and agree together how they will handle any questions.
On a practical level, your foster carer payments will also help them get prepared for starting a new school with any school uniform items or equipment they may need. Where possible, involve children in choosing items such as school bags, shoes and coats to help get them excited about starting school, as well as chatting about opportunities to join sports teams, music clubs and other extra curricular activities. Children may not have had the opportunity to do so in the past, or may have a hobby or interest they would benefit from continuing with. Take a look at our blog post on How sports teams can be beneficial for your foster children for further advice.
Looking For Extra Help?
Is your foster child nervous about the prospect of starting a new school? Are you concerned about how you might deal with a foster child changing schools? Our team is always happy to answer any queries you may have about all aspects of foster placement, so contact us today.